Paws they deserve it
As foraging for food becomes a challenge for the city's strays, here are the animal welfare NGOs ensuring they don't go hungry
Navi Mumbai's stray saviours
A self-trained chef and digital media consultant, Utpal Khot has been feeding strays in Navi Mumbai and Kharghar for the past 13 years. "It began as a small effort in 2007 when I started feeding around seven dogs in our housing society. Today, we feed over 200 strays on a daily basis. Back then, the population of dogs was high in the area as the dogs were not neutered and sterilised. We started implementing the ABC (Animal Birth Control) programme, and the population is now under control," says the 47-year-old who started a registered NGO called Being the Real Human Foundation in 2017 that looks after animals and senior citizens. During the lockdown, Khot and his team feed 500 dogs once a day. "We have taken permission from the Panvel city municipal corporation till May 3, which we will extend if the lockdown continues. My wife Prita and I have studied the WHO directives and follow the precautions and steps to ensure we are not putting anyone at risk. With five more volunteers, we individually divide the area among us. I leave at 7 am and cover the eastern region, and then from 3.30 pm to 6 pm I cover the north, west and south," says Khot. Their expenditure of R1,800 per day is taken care of via donations and personal funding.
Call 9987582845 to donate or volunteer
Here's what you need to keep in mind
Abodh Aras, CEO of Welfare of Stray Dogs (WSD), says it is important to feed strays in the lockdown as their normal source of food is not available. "One must follow all Coronavirus-related protocol first," he says.
- Feed in the same area and don't go too far away from your base.
- Check timings with your local authorities and stick to the route.
- Ensure the feed area is not dirty. Remove plates and though it is better to feed fresh food, it is all right to stick to dry food in such times. Do not feed in groups or in the middle of the road as dogs tend to pick up patterns, and it should not be a problem when things go back to normal.
- Mix roti, dal and rice to make it voluminous. With the summer upon us, take some water too.
WSD has identified office neighbourhoods and locations where dogs are likely to be going hungry. "Dogs that relied on office-goers and nearby shop owners for feeding are sure to suffer during the lockdown. We have distributed dry food to people in the areas so that they are regularly getting to eat. We also give food to security guards and slum dwellers who we know will help the animals in their area," he signs off.
Every animal matters
Ganesh Nayak with the pet ambulance used for feeding rounds
With the help of 75 volunteers and staff, Ganesh Nayak of Animal Matters to Me (AMTM) looks after 15,000 dogs across Mumbai since the organisation was set up in 2010. During the lockdown, the team sets out in four ambulances that carry freshly cooked food made in their Malad community kitchen. Each van plies with one or two volunteers, a driver and staff. "We offer a porridge of rice, veggies, dog food and medicine to cure itching and ticks based on a certified vet's recipe. If someone wishes to volunteer, we pick them up, take a consent form and carry out the feeding in their area depending on our feeding chart," says Nayak who supplies protection gear of masks, sanitisers and gloves. He also gives volunteers up to R300 for their service.
A volunteer at AMTM’s community kitchen
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Parel's star feeders
Since 1999, Nalini Jayram Utekar has been feeding stray dogs and cats in central Mumbai. In the lockdown, her routine has not changed, and she knows her 75 furry friends are waiting for her. On a regular day, her route would cover Portuguese Church in Dadar, Prabhadevi and Lower Parel. "In the lockdown, I am only covering Lower Parel. On my two shifts, I cover areas from Bhoiwada Police Station to Haffkine Institute, KEM Hospital to SPCA gates, and Bharatmata cinema. I take pet food, milk, bread and water which I pour into disposable bowls from 7 pm to 11 pm," says the 55-year-old whose monthly expenditure to feed the strays is `50,000. She collects this amount from donors and through personal funding.
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